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D.C.’s three-lawyer Koltun & King provides corporate, finance, securities, mergers and acquisitions, and general business representation to established as well as early stage businesses. The firm has a special expertise in taking U.S. companies public and Canadian and international companies public in U.S. markets, as well as completing numerous forms of private offerings. Last week, Legal Times reporter Lily Henning visited the offices of Koltun & King to ask “Five Questions” of name partners Lawrence Koltun and Susan King. Below is a transcript of their conversation, edited for reasons of space and clarity. Why did you decide to start your own practice? Lawrence Koltun: I was ready. The time was right. I’d been a partner in several firms, and I decided that I wanted to make my own moves. And with a lot of encouragement from my family, I did it. It’s always hard to go out on your own-there is nobody else that you can rely on-but it’s exhilarating. I started the firm in January 1991 and Susan [King] came in October 1995. I started off doing primarily securities work from 1991 to the time that Susan came on. She has a strong M&A background and that tied nicely into the securities work as a natural adjunct. We now do securities, M&A, and general corporate work. Paul [Economon] came on board in January 2002. He had been general counsel with OneSoft Corp. [a now-defunct McLean, Va.-based tech company]. Susan King: I had grown a little tired of being in a big firm, especially of some of the politics that are involved in working your way up and getting to the partner level. So I wasn’t averse to going into a smaller firm. I really had done the big-firm thing and thoroughly enjoyed it, but was ready for a change. I was at Bell, Boyd & Lloyd’s Washington office, and there wasn’t enough work to maintain the corporate department there, and Larry and I found each other. That was when there was still not a lot of corporate work in D.C. and it was just before the tech boom. I didn’t have the securities experience at that point, and it was tough to find a job at a big firm if you didn’t have that experience. And it worked out well for Larry too because I had a lot of M&A experience, and he was willing to start off and teach me all of the securities work, so it really became a good fit for the two of us. It’s been a lot of work to build the firm, but a lot of fun along the way. Tell us about your clients. Koltun: Our client base has evolved. When I first started, I was totally doing securities work for health care companies, and that’s still there. But for example, five years ago, we were working very heavily with tech companies. After the tech boom, we had to retool our marketing approach. We realized that while there will still be a lot of tech companies here, we can’t put all of our marketing eggs in one basket. Our clients are mainly midsize and younger companies, all of them growing. Now we have a combination of clients as diverse as a gold-mining company, tech companies, government contractors, and real-estate-investment companies. It’s pretty much all over the board. What they have in common is that they are all growing in one way or another and need someone to come in and help to guide them through the legal issues that they need to get through in order to grow. On the one hand we’re clearing a way to make it easier for them to grow; on other hand we’re protecting them, so that they do it the right way. Where do you find your clients? King: They come from a combination of people we meet through groups that we belong to. We also find networks of people who know the right people who are looking for new legal counsel. We’ve been finding more and more that there were some companies that went out and got venture capital financing and used some of the bigger law firms and now are deciding that they want to scale back and are looking for a smaller firm where they can get better and prompter service. And they start talking to each other, which is nice. We had one client that came to us when they were first looking for counsel and they made the decision that they wanted to go with one of the bigger firms in town. But two weeks later, they called us back and said they wanted to use the bigger firm for the marquee name and for raising money, but that they would like to use us for the day-to-day work. Some of those clients feel like they’re not getting the attention that they need, because they’re a small fish in a big pond. We are pretty good at getting those people. Koltun: I’m also on the board of directors for the local chapter of the Association for Corporate Growth, a national organization devoted to transactional activity. I find that that has been a great way to meet people. We have to be marketing constantly. We’ve found in the past that those times that we were busy and didn’t market, we got hurt when times slowed down. I look upon marketing as a process of getting your name out in front of people and telling them what you do and how you do it. It’s networking, writing articles, and giving speeches-just generally meeting people. It’s not just one thing, it’s a constant process. There are also informal networks of smaller to midsize firms that refer work to each other. I’ve been in the process of forming the D.C. chapter of the International Network of Boutique Law Firms, specifically for that purpose. We’re looking for boutique law firms with different specialties to come and join the chapter. King: We also get referrals from big firms on matters that are either too small for them to handle or they have conflicts with. We keep in touch with our big-firm contacts for that reason. The whole point is to give the client the best service possible. How do you measure business success? Koltun: There are several ways you can measure success: monetarily, and then emotionally, in terms of peace of mind. From my point of view, more importantly this has been emotionally wonderful. It’s without comparison. At a large firm, I used to find that there were two levels of stress: There is the level that the firm imposes, and then there is a level of stress from dealing with client matters and deadlines. I find it is incredible when you take away that first level of stress. It makes all of the difference in the world in terms of quality of life. King: We don’t have the constant committee meetings that take up your time. Sometimes our firm’s intercom system is just a shout through the wall. What challenges to your practice do you foresee? King: I think we’re anticipating a growing economy, so the question is: How do we continue to orient the practice to take advantage of it? We’re always looking at what our clients are doing and looking for good complementary practice areas, at what our clients want. It challenges us to look ahead at what we think those areas are going to be. One of the things that we like to do is really get to know our clients’ businesses so we already have the background to respond very quickly to what their needs are. One client is involved in RFID [radio frequency identification technology] systems, in which microchips are used to track items for things like inventory control and baggage handling. They’re going like gangbusters. So we need to think: Where is that going to go, what are their needs going to be? Everybody always needs general business advice, and in that respect, the clients that we are outside general counsel for provide a pretty steady stream of business. When a client comes to us for a specific transaction, that is what raises us to a peak. When that transaction ends, we might have a valley and we might not, depending on whether the next transaction is sitting in the pipeline or not. We try to keep those in the pipeline. Koltun: The primary challenge that I foresee for my practice is being able to continue to educate the public of the value-in terms of service, level of sophistication, and cost-that a smaller law firm can bring.

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